What passions are you pursuing in life? Do they wake you in the middle of the night or dominate your thoughts throughout the day? Are they what you’ve always dreamed of becoming or feel “destined” to do with your life? Or maybe they’re just a part of who you feel you were called to be—your purpose. Whatever they are, in the midst of pursuing them everything else in life seems to slip into the shadows of insignificance.
I must confess that after nearly two decades of pursuing my passions in both athletics and business, God opened my eyes to a bit of an unpopular view of the pursuit of my passions. And He did it through a simple question that I believe we all ask ourselves from time to time: Why do I do what I do? The challenge is; do we answer honestly?
As a young athlete I occasionally asked myself this question regarding my passion for basketball. Why was I willing to spend hours upon hours of my teenage years pushing myself to exhaustion? Was it for the love of the game, the thrill of victory, or maybe the camaraderie or the competition? Whatever it was, I eventually dismissed the question, satisfied with how I’d justified my pursuits in my own mind. Of course, this pattern of justifying continued well into my adult years. I convinced myself that every passion I pursued was being pursued for the right reasons. After all, they were my passions, one of the most popular indicators of what I was wired to do here on this earth. Or so I thought, right up until a series of painful experiences in life revealed a new reality regarding my passions and the elusive nature of the question why.
In 2002, after years of 90-hour workweeks, I reached the pinnacle of my pain. Exhausted by an obsessive pursuit of my passions, I found myself suffering physically, emotionally, financially, and relationally—all telltale signs that the path I was on was due for reconsideration. After all, the fruit really is a great indicator of the root, and my lack of health in each of these areas of life revealed much about where my heart really was. So, after years of trying to run through every brick wall that stood in my way, I finally recognized the necessity of being honest with myself in answering the why question behind my pursuits. And what I found wasn’t pretty.
As I prayerfully reflected upon my past, I began to see that most of the passions I’d pursued; both as a teen and an adult, were more about status, power, control, and popularity than anything else. In essence, they were more about me than anyone else. So what’s the big deal? Well, for starters, self-seeking pursuits run in direct conflict with my purpose here on earth (click: why am I here for more on this). But in addition to this, scripture warns us repeatedly of the consequences that result from self-seeking pursuits. One of my favorite examples of this is found in James (3:16)…where you have envy and selfish ambition, you find disorder and every evil practice. To me, this verse is a powerful and accurate depiction of our culture today. James specifies two of the most dangerous motives of the heart and then clarifies the results of allowing these motives to drive us. And yet, despite the fact that many of our passions are rooted in at least one of these motives, virtually every motivational speaker, teacher, preacher, and coach with a platform today continues to encourage us to pursue our passions. Is it any wonder we don’t have to look very hard to find disorder and every evil practice in organizations today?
The bottom line is this; when it comes to the pursuit of our passions, many of us (myself included) have answered the why question with statements like, I’m doing this for my team, I’m building my platform for God, I’m working these hours for my family, or even I want to make a lot of money to give a lot of money. And, although these are well-intentioned statements, they don’t always paint the full picture of what lies in our hearts. Make no mistake; when societies constant call to serve ourselves intersects with our ability to deceive ourselves we learn quickly how to justify almost any pursuit - even when it comes at the expense of the most important things in life - relationships.
My challenge to you is this: ask yourself why you pursue the passions you pursue. Then, prayerfully consider the fruit surrounding your pursuits – if you find yourself unhealthy relationally – I encourage you to rethink about what lies at the real root of your pursuits!